Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Hilton New Orleans Riverside
2 Poydras St
New Orleans La
Since I was staying at the Hilton last year, when this branch of the restaurant opened, I just had to try it. It is a lot more convenient to get to than the Metairie location. I had dinner plans so this was an oyster stop for pre-appetizers. The setting as with most high-end hotels proved magnificent. Lots of marble and carpet. I sat at the oyster bar where the shucking and char grilling happens. The raws came out big and juicy with great saltiness. Amazing since it was late May. Served on crushed ice in the shell, as they should be. The char broiled lacked the smoky flavor of the wood fired grills of Metairie since they can only use radiant ones in the hotel. Still they were tasty. How can a glop of garlic butter and Parmesan cheese go wrong? The owner, Tommy, knows me and sent out a complimentary dish of a new recipe at the time. Called Fleur d’Lis Shrimp it consists of fried shrimp tossed in a red bell pepper aioli (mayonnaise) with chopped peanuts, delicious.

St James Hotel
322 Magazine St
New Orleans La
The chandeliers in this upscale restaurant are built around huge bottles of champagne and wine. I would guess probably Methuselahs. A prie fixe menu called a Degustation caught my eye and I went with that. A wrought iron sleigh arrived at the table containing marvelous pieces of cornbread, toasted herb focaccia square, and a small slightly sweet muffin. I swear I could make a meal of just that. Next dish up an amuse bouche. Spiced Shrimp Napoleon composed of a crisp mirliton slice topped with a shrimp in a white remoulade sauce and frisee surrounded by a cayenne beurre blanc. The crisp neutral flavor of the mirliton, sweet shrimp in tart mayonnaise, slightly bitter frisee and spice hit of the sauce made for a great bite.
Next appeared a Colossal Lump Crab Heirloom Tomato Salad in a large martini glass. It also contained fresh avocado slices and key lime/patron margarita vinaigrette. The acid in the tomatoes balanced the sweetness of the crab and the lushness of the avocado. The vinaigrette rounded it all out. I did not care much for the presentation as all the fluids collected in the punt of the glass and left some components less moist. A plate presentation would have been better for the flavor of the dish.

A bowl of White Bean Roasted Garlic soup came to the table next. They dressed it up with crawfish tails and white truffle oil. It was creamy with an excellent earthy sweet taste. To me the crawfish were unnecessary. Next came a Foie Gras and Proscuitto Torchon. Poached duck liver served on a huge Parmigiano reggiano crouton surrounded by olives and balsamic, delicious but a bit difficult to eat. The crouton was a whole slice of bread so hard that it crumbled when I tried to cut a piece of it to eat the liver on. However as I love liver anyway you give it to me, it made little difference to me. The flavor was there.
The star of the evening shined next. A piece of seared redfish topped with a spicy peppadew relish sitting on a blue crabmeat cake surrounded by Louisiana barbeque butter. The flavors melded together to provide a Gestalt. The whole is better than the sum of the parts. The flavor right and spice perfect. Its combination of sweet, spicy, salty and earthy made it almost Oriental in nature.
This next dish proved my least favorite. The Madeira Braised Lamb Tart seemed to be a riff on a Moroccan dish called Brik. Braised lamb in a phyllo crust shaped like a cone surround by wedges of fresh apricot and a lamb demi. I love lamb and was looking forward to this but it had an acrid and bitter after taste.
Last but not least was a Ricotta Cake. Surrounded by fresh strawberries and a port reduction and topped with spun sugar, this proved a spectacular and light ending to this meal. The flavors here spot on and delicious. The ricotta made this cheesecake light and refreshing with a tang to it.
While I had some minor quibbles with the meal it came down to my personal preferences. The execution, presentation, and flavors of the meal stood out and I would go back here in an instant.



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